Bereavement: coping with grief after the death of a sibling
I was at school and it was the end of the last lesson
and the headmaster came in and he said,
"Can you come with me to my office?"
I knew something really bad had happened.
They were like, "We've got some sad news."
And then it was like, "Someone's definitely died."
And then when we got here there were lots of police cars
and then when we went into the house Dad told us that Benny had died.
They just said, "Benny's died. He's had an accident."
"He's in the kitchen and he's died."
I think when we're thinking about explaining death to a child,
for a parent we need to remember
that it's natural for them to want to protect their child.
It'll be the hardest thing in the world that they'd have to do,
and so to be really mindful of that,
that they'll be coming from a place that's a very vulnerable place for them.
I'm really glad...
We never saw Benny in the kitchen where he died.
We were told we could see him at the mortuary.
So we went down there as a family.
If there's anything that they're going to be part of,
like the funeral, like before the funeral,
if they could view the person that's died's body,
it's really important that they're prepared for what they're going to see.
(Neil) It was important to me that, on the day of the funeral,
we laid Benny out in this room.
Right before they put the coffin lid on and took him up to the church
we all stood round as a family.
We'd all written some notes to Benny
and put them in the coffin and stood round
and then we said goodbye to him.
(Jenni Thomas) Children do need to be included as much as possible.
Children are OK if you talk about death.
They understand what that means.
It's now a year and a half, a bit more than that, after...
It's a very important thing to think clearly about how they're coping
and what we can do together,
and we do still do quite a lot of stuff about Benny.
You're losing a companion with a sibling.
You're losing somebody that you have fun and not so much fun with sometimes.
So it is different.
I think they've all had the same information
because we've just been very open with all of them.
Obviously they interpret it differently
and Anna, who is nearly 12 now, but she was ten at the time,
she seems much more in touch with her emotions.
I felt of course sadness as well,
but it's more of a shock that Benny's died,
but now it kind of makes you realise that people do actually die.
I don't think I've completely come to terms with it yet.
I don't think it's hit me still.
There are lots and lots of different feelings that children will have.
They can feel very anxious. Anxiety is a big part of grief.
Your whole world's changed.
That can make a child behave in a very agitated way,
maybe not want to be left at all.
Children can feel very worried
that if one person's died in the family someone else could die.
Children aren't like adults in terms of how they are
when they have some bad and difficult news to manage.
They quite often take it on board, they feel upset,
but they move off the painful part of it quite quickly.
It's not that they don't feel it, they do,
but they need to get on and do something else.
Very often when a sibling dies
the remaining children lose their parent at some level as well
because they lose the parent that they knew,
certainly for some time, because they will then be in a very grieving family.
After a while you start to understand how you're affecting your children.
And it... There was one point where I was really, really down
and Eddie came up to see me in the bedroom and he said,
"Dad, you're not going to do anything stupid, are you?"
And that was obviously a worry.
Children learn about grieving from watching us, from watching adults.
That's how they learn.
And so it's really helpful to say to parents,
if maybe a brother or sister's died,
"It's OK to let your other children see how you are."
Because then the children will see that it's OK to cry.
I've never seen Mum and Dad cry before
and so it kind of made me realise that something had actually happened
and that something was quite bad.
That's kind of what helped me understand that it was real.
I think it's good that they were
because it shows that it's normal to be upset and that that's OK.
One of the things that's helpful for children
is to have things that belong to the parent or brother or sister that's died,
to have something you can put in a memory box.
I think it's a shoe box and what Benny...
It's like remembering things that Benny liked to do and things like that.
Basically this is a CD that he liked
and me and Benny used to listen to a lot of music together.
And this is a penknife... because he liked being outside.
And this a photo album with lots of photos of Benny in.
- Well, they're not of Benny... - He took them.
Some of them.
And this is the school that he went to.
Grief isn't something that just is there for a few weeks,
it's there for very many months
and children particularly revisit it at each developmental stage,
so you might have done it very well when the child was younger,
but they might need more help a bit later on.
It's something which for children I think is absolutely vital to understand,
that death is not a meaningless event,
it is actually very much part of our lives,
and that's how I hope that our children will grow to understand what's happened.